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5 Types of Shoe Materials and How to Clean Them

Shoes come in different style, different sizes and made of different materials.  You got pumps, boots, sneakers, heels and those for different purposes.  You might also have basketball shoes, hiking boots, formal dress shoes, loafers and many others.  What you would notice for sure is that each shoe is made of a different material.

With that said, of course, each pair of shoes would require a different cleaning method.  While there are methods being commonly used for all types of shoes, to show utmost care for your pair, you really have to apply the method that’s unique to the type of material.

Here are the common materials that shoes are made of and how to clean them properly:

  • Leather

  • This is one of the most common materials used to make men’s dress shoes that you often see being worn to work.  This comes from animal hide – cow, horse, sheep and even crocodile and snake.  What’s loved about leather is its durability and breathability.  It works as a heat insulator that can help regulate the temperature for your feet.  It is an easy favourite that while the price for a pair can go up to a premium, it is still seen as a worthy investment.

    To clean leather shoes: Use a soft brush to remove dirt on the surface.  Brush it gently as brushing it too hard can cause damage even if you use the softest of brushes.  Run the brush too along the seams and the soles of your shoes.  Then, wipe it with a damp cloth and a small amount of mild soap.  But if you have liquid leather cleaner then it would be better to use it on the damp cloth.  Wipe it again with a clean damp cloth to remove any residues from the soap or leather cleaner that you used.  Apply shoe polish then again brush it gently. Remember to air dry your shoes.

  • Fabric

  • What can fall under this are canvas, denim, cotton, polyester, wool and many others.  You can find this being used in sneakers, moccasins, espadrilles, aqua shoes and others.  It may feel very light on your feet but it can get dirty pretty easily.  What could be a top of mind solution to clean shoes made of fabric?  

    Others would definitely advise for you to throw it in the washer.  It’s made of fabric, isn’t it?  But before you do just that, remember that the tumble wash can cause deformity of your shoes and worse is if you put it on the dryer as too much heat can also break down some of the parts.

    Spot cleaning is still seen as the best method.  Some advised using a toothbrush dipped in a cleaning mixture.  If you are into DIY, you can make your own cleaning mixture using equal parts water and baking soda. If you can see that putting your shoes in the washer is a necessity, then be sure to run it on a delicate mode.  After, air dry your shoes.

  • Rubber

  • Rubber is commonly used in making sports shoes – basketball, running, tennis and many others.  Remember Crocs?  Yes, crocs are also made out of rubber.  The soles of most of your shoes, if not all, are also made of rubber.  The grooves of rubber soles create an anti-slip traction that is helpful when you have to walk on mud and other forms of dirt.  On a rainy day, expect your shoes to get all muddy too.

    How to clean?   First let mud dry and a simple way to get them off is to slap the soles of your shoes together.  This method can knock off chunks of caked mud from your shoes.  Remember to do this outside of your house to avoid leaving a mess inside of your house.  Then, use a dry brush to remove and scrape off mud and dirt that’s left after slapping them together. 

    After that, you can then scrub your shoes with a cleaning solution for rubber shoes or if you go DIY, you can mix one baking soda and one part liquid detergent.  Just use those mild ones so as not to damage your shoes.  Next is to wipe with a damp cloth to rinse off the cleaning solution or mixture.  To complete the process, air dry your shoes.

  • Foam

  • Foam is the material used in most shoe uppers and outsoles of basketball shoes and the like.  However today, there are shoes whose midsoles are also made of foam.  

    The common foam used in shoes are Ethyl Vinyl Acetate (EVA), Polyethylene and Polyurethane), latex rubber foam and memory foam.  It would be difficult to clean foam as you wouldn’t want to damage its density and compression resistance.

    To clean, you would only need water, mild detergent or soap and a soft cloth.  Then, again, one to complete as always is to air dry your shoes.

  • Synthetic

  • By the word itself, synthetic is synonymous to artificial, fake, imitation and others.  While there is that desire to purchase the real stuff, practicality would push many to buy shoes that are made of synthetic materials.  Shoes made of synthetic materials are often more affordable than the others especially if compared with leather.  But you will get what you pay for and since they are less durable, they are prone to urgent replacement more often than not.

    As with other materials, a soft cloth soaked in water and mild detergent can do the trick in cleaning.  Do the spot cleaning by blotting that area with the soft cloth.  Keep from saturating the synthetic material as excess water can damage it.  After wiping with the soft, damp cloth, you can then wipe it with a clean and dry rag.  Again, air dry.  

    To further protect and keep your shoes clean

    Prevention is better than cure, they say.  To avoid getting your shoes covered with dirt, mud and grime, you may want to consider wearing shoe covers.  You can look them up  as there are many available in the market